2020 Mazda 3 Review: Stick It To Me

The bad news comes at you daily, it seems. No, I’m not talking about the pandemic, the state of our economy, politics, or the dumpster fire that passes for public discourse these days. I’m talking about bad news that hits even closer to our hearts – the slow demise of the traditional manual transmission.

Pundits may wring hands. Activists may cling to Save The Manuals hashtags. But we know that automakers, while occasionally misguided by trends, are not collectively idiots. They only build what can sell – and very few cars with three pedals will sell anymore.

Mazda may be our last hope. The company that singlehandedly revived the affordable roadster market offers a stick in this, the 2020 Mazda 3 hatchback. Might it finally revive the enthusiast we hope lies deep within every compact car buyer?

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Ace of Base: 2020 Honda Civic Hatchback LX

Those of us in a certain age bracket, which is to say rapidly approaching our fortieth year or more, recall the Honda Civic as a primarily hatchback form of transportation. Sure, a few weirdos went and got the sedan or coupe but, by and large, the Civic was a hatchback. At least in our town.

Then, it suddenly disappeared from dealer lots in North America. The seventh-gen car was available in coupe or sedan form on this side of the pond, save for the slightly oddball Si and its bent-nail gearstick. Mercifully, it reappeared in volume for the current model.

We’ve studied the Civic sedan and coupe in this series but not the hatchback. Let’s right that wrong today.

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A Year in Review - 17 Observations From a 2019 Spent Watching the Automotive Industry

From the characters that control it to the engines at the heart of it, from the history that hems it in to the future that waits for it, from the designs that define it to the manufacturing that fulfills it, the automotive industry has something for everyone.

That’s why we cover it. That’s why we read about it. That’s why we drive and research and analyze, why we memorize specs and memorialize eras, why we wax eloquent when given the opportunity to explain the inherent balance of an inline-six, and why we correct people when they say, “CVT transmission.”

It’s also why we develop deep-seated automotive opinions that have as much chance of coming undone as your Jordan versus LeBron GOAT verdict. (Jordan, obviously. Gretzky, Federer, Mays, and Brady, too, for the record.)

Despite the fact that there was no shortage of automotive opinions dancing around in my head in those twilight moments before sleep each night at the beginning of the year, I nevertheless developed more conclusions over the course of 2019. After having little time to think of much else, and after driving hundreds of different cars, here’s an exhaustive (and exhausting) 17-part sampling.

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2019 Hyundai Elantra Sport Review - Making a Case for Saving the Manuals

The 2019 Hyundai Elantra Sport makes a compelling case for saving the manual transmission. But perhaps not compelling enough, as between the time I drove this car and wrote this review, Hyundai killed the stick in the 2020 Elantra Sport.

I daresay that’s not the car’s fault — the stick-shift Sport would be on my shopping list if I were eyeing a sporty compact commuter. Market forces continue to kill off manual transmissions and, while some brands are fighting the good fight, Hyundai must not have seen a business case in doing battle.

That’s too bad, because the budget buyer looking for value in a sporty compact car just lost one option.

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2019 Honda Accord Sport 2.0T - The Long-Awaited Sixth Generation Prelude Si

It’s back, baby! Enthusiasts cried in 2001 when, amid The Fast and the Furious fever, Honda pulled the plug on their bigger sports coupe offering, the Prelude. It wasn’t selling well, as the Civic had grown to fit American tastes, and the beloved Acura Integra had just been supplanted by the more powerful RSX. Still, there are enthusiasts who lament the loss of the beloved coupe.

While I detest the “four-door coupe” moniker being applied to sedans with a steeply raked backlight, it doesn’t take a big stretch of imagination to see a coupe atop this page if you squint. Thus, I’m calling it – this 2019 Honda Accord 2.0T Sport is the return of the Prelude. The postlude, perhaps.

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Ace of Base: 2020 Nissan 370Z Base

Betcha forgot about this one. That’s okay – most people have. Thanks to Nissan’s glacier-like design cycle, the 2020 Z isn’t significantly different than when it first appeared in the late Jurassic period for the 2009 model year.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy of our attention in this series, though, especially since it is one of the few remaining cars in today’s market that still offers a manual transmission, let alone two doors and a fast roofline. In fact, that steep chop aft of the windshield puts your author in mind of Godzilla, which is not bad company to keep.

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2019 Genesis G70 Sport Review - Handsome Anachronism

Take a good look at the state of the sports sedan. Once defined as four doors, compact dimensions, rear-wheel drive, and a manual transmission, there are precious few new cars sold today that fit that narrow criteria. The German manufacturers who made their names in this segment have abandoned the third pedal.

The only choice left is this 2019 Genesis G70 Sport – fitted with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, a six-speed manual transmission, and rear wheel drive. Does it win by default as the last car standing in a shrinking market, or is it worthy of accolades on its own merits?

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QOTD: Stick It to the Man?

Some days, it seems as if the world is on an unending march to eradicate the manual transmission from our North American automotive landscape. The 911, various trucks, you name it — soon, there won’t be a stick to fetch anywhere.

Or will there? Fresh off writing a roundup of cars available in the Great White North with three pedals, I got to thinking: what would the B&B buy today if they had to select a stickshift vehicle?

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Stick It to 'Em: Michigan Loves Manual Transmission (Assuming Social Media Is Real Life…)

The shouting factory that is Twitter, by and large, should generally not be considered as something that resembles real life. Between trolls and various other bottom feeders, it can be tough to find real information amongst all the noise.

Every now and then, a nugget of information appears that makes weathering the commotion worthwhile. Despite take rates being lower than this winter’s average temperatures, stickshifts are apparently a very popular topic in the Wolverine State.

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BMW Development Chief Envisions the Manual Transmission's Last Dance

Your author’s first experience with a stick-shift BMW came when he was an impressionable youth, after being offered a ride to a since-forgotten destination by the head of a Christian youth group. Sorry, nothing weird happened. Something great did, however.

The car was a mid-1990s 328i, black over black pleather (a feature that irked the driver), five speed manual. “Look how much pickup it has in fifth,” I recall the man saying, stabbing the throttle as we coasted along at maybe 40-45 mph.

So different from my father’s Oldsmobile was the experience, it opened my eyes to a different type of driving — an engaging, involved form of motoring. While vehicles of a German pedigree didn’t come into my possession in the years following, stick-shift cars did. Seven of the eight cars I’ve owned boasted a clutch pedal. But sticks are dying, and the brand most associated with the three-pedal lifestyle doesn’t field many of them anymore. How long can it last? We have answers.

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Audi's U.S. Lineup Will Be Free of Manual Gearboxes In 2019

The manual transmission continues to die a slow, lingering death. Audi is now eliminating the manual option from its entire U.S. lineup, not that the majority if its customers will actually miss it. While the 2018 Audi A4 can still be had with a six-speed manual, the refreshed 2019 model will not. The same will be true for the less-popular A5 coupe.

It’s a bum deal for enthusiasts but it’s difficult to come down too hard on Audi. The A4’s seven-speed dual-clutch S tronic isn’t exactly a terrible transmission and, considering it outsells the manual by a huge margin, it doesn’t make financial sense for Audi to ship anything else across the ocean.

Applying that logic hasn’t make us feel better about the situation, though.

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Get a Stick Shift Chevrolet Cruze While You Can, Because the 2019s Won't Have 'Em

There’s two bits of bad news in the lineup of refreshed Chevrolet small cars announced today. Three, if you’re a fan of the Sonic. You see, the automaker doesn’t mention either the Sonic or the Impala in all of this 2019 model madness — lending credence to a report claiming GM plans to ditch both of those models. It’s rare for an automaker to invest in an 11th hour refresh of a model it plans to kill.

Sure, the Sonic’s last refresh came for the 2017 model year, one year later than the introduction of the current-generation Malibu, Cruze, and Spark. So maybe it’s just not due yet. But the Impala bowed for the 2014 model year and there’s still no word on any refresh or redesign.

The other bad thing will be felt only by lovers of the three-pedal, row-your-own lifestyle. What we reported in December is now confirmed: the Chevrolet Cruze goes fully automatic for 2019. It’s time to cross another affordable, manual-transmission car off a shrinking list.

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Shake It Like a Polaroid Picture: New Package Arrives for the Dodge Challenger

Law enforcement officials across the nation will be eager to learn about Dodge’s new Shakedown package for the Challenger and … oh, what’s that, Steph? Not that kind of shakedown? Alright then.

In an effort to inject a bit of interest in a car that was introduced a year before Barack Obama took the Oath of Office for the first time – beyond, y’know, psychotic 707- and 840-horsepower editions – Dodge has tossed a stereo and a bit of wallpaper at its retro two-door.

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Subaru Exec Spins Frightening Vision of a Stickless Future

Is Subaru, a scrappy-but-approaching-the-mainstream automaker, about to ditch the manual transmission? That’s what some are gleaning from comments made by Subaru UK managing director Chris Graham on the sidelines of the Geneva Motor Show this week.

Speaking to Auto Express, Graham mused about the brand’s EyeSight driver-assist technology and Subaru’s desire to include the suite of safety aids on all of its cars. The trouble is, EyeSight isn’t available on Subarus equipped with manual transmissions. If you’re looking for goodies like automatic emergency braking and lane departure warnings, a Lineartronic CVT had best be on your wish list, too.

Graham’s comments point to a Subaru that’s prepared to weaken the bond between driver and car in the name of increased computerized control.

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Ace of Base: 2018 Fiat 124 Spider Classica

Many corners of the internet expected the roadster shown here to show up as an Alfa Romeo Spider, not a Fiat 124 Spider, when rumours surfaced all those years ago about the MX-5 donning a natty Italian suit. Perhaps Fiat Chrysler made its decision at the time based on Fiat’s larger dealer network or some sort of answer provided by Sergio’s Magic 8 Ball.

Whatever the reason, we now live in a world where a brace of affordable and fun two-place roadsters are on offer. While the fraternal twins share a great deal, their clothes are different, as are their hearts. We’ve already deemed the base Mazda MX-5 to be worthy of AoB mention; can its Italian brother turn the same trick?

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  • MaintenanceCosts I was reading, bobbing my head along, thinking "$5000 and whatever it costs to throw in a 1.8 gasser and we have a winner," and then you have to harsh my mellow by sharing the seller's delusions of grandeur.
  • MaintenanceCosts They can't keep selling through the current hodgepodge mess of desperate or disreputable dealers. Somehow the sales model has to change. Whether they become the Don Quixote that tilts at the franchise-law windmill to sell direct, or they cut a deal to get into another OEM's dealer network, something has to change.They've always been able to engineer competitive cars when they want to, but they haven't had a reasonable way to sell them since the Chrysler tie-up ended.
  • Sgeffe There’s a guy on YouTube who owns several Oldsmobile Diesel-equipped vehicles, including an A-Body with the 4.3 V6. Might be the Chevy.IIRC, Adam Wade on the “Rare Classic Cars” channel stated that this engine was also available in 1985 only in the redesigned C-Bodies (98 Regency, Electra, DeVille/Fleetwood).
  • Tassos It's a GREAT value, but what, if any, profit will GM make from this vehicle? When it prices it at only $30k, while the much smaller and much CRAPPIER FIAT 500E goes for OVER $40k????
  • Tassos The consumers (not the "market") DO trust EVs, but those that are superior and well-priced,THey buy millions of TESLAS and very few copies of all the other dozens and dozens of LEGACY BEVs.Makes sense to me. None of these experienced makers have YET succeeded to design and build a better Tesla, that is ALSO PRICED COMPETITIVELY.